Presidential elections are all about capturing the vote. Candidates work to target concerns of every identifiable group—the Hispanics, the Veterans, the Blacks, the Evangelicals, the Working Class, the Unions, and so on. However, one untapped, yet potentially powerful voting block is the body of college students, the 18- to 24-year-olds. Sadly, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, young adults have a historically low voter turnout with less than half of those eligible exercising their constitutional right. Researchers point to a variety of factors that contribute to this lack of involvement.
Young adults’ lack of connectedness to a community plays a key role in undermining the value of voting. Dr. Quentin Kidd, the head of political science at Christopher Newport University, says, “The bottom line is that people generally agree that the extent to which young adults feel they have a stake in the establishment is less than the older voter.” Besides a lower stake in the establishment, he also elaborates that young people don’t typically attach to a community until they become more settled. Young adults often do not become invested in a city until after their educational years. As a result, issues that affect communities and cities aren’t on their radar so there’s no motivation to have an impact even through voting. (Seewww.college.USAToday.com/2015/09/25/why-college-students-arent-voting/).
Another significant influence on the turnout of college students at the polls is whether or not the candidates address their immediate concerns. Tuition costs, educational debt, and securing jobs rank high on the 18 to 24 age group’s list of worries. Many in this age range also tend to have noble ideals and hearts to make a difference in areas of social justice and preservation of our planet. Candidates that address these issues get the young adult vote. President Obama received 5 million more of the young adult votes than Mitt Romney in 2012 because during his run for re-election, he campaigned for reduced student loan interest. Barry Sanders has also zeroed on the rising costs of educational institutions. As a result, Sanders is gaining the support of the young adult population. (See www.NYTimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/08/17/what-college-students-care-about-in-this-presidential-election/one-supreme-court-appointee-can-make-a-difference;see also www.Politico.com/story/2012/04/obama-launches-student-loan-campaign-075549).
If a large percentage of the 30,000,000 plus young adults exercised their voting privileges, they could have a significant impact on the upcoming elections in 2016 as well as future elections. Young adults don’t realize that by foregoing the vote now, they also diminish the opportunities for their concerns being considered in the future. If they don’t vote because their particular concerns are not at stake, they then cause themselves to become voiceless. The candidates cater to those who vote because that is the way they get in office. Those who don’t vote should not complain because they have chosen not to unleash the power they have been given to effect change.
By Frank J. Bundra